Protesters gather at Union Square in Manhattan on Tuesday Nov....

Protesters gather at Union Square in Manhattan on Tuesday Nov. 25, 2014, in response to the grand jury decision regarding the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. Credit: Anthony Lanzilote

Beginning in the new year, municipalities around the country will be required to report the deaths of people killed during an arrest or while in police custody to the U.S. attorney general. It's about time.

One key to solving a problem is understanding how pervasive it is and the circumstances in which it occurs. The deaths of Eric Garner on Staten Island and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, at the hands of police, and the nationwide protests they sparked roused even the obstreperous Congress to unanimously approve the Death in Custody Reporting Act earlier this month. Similar reporting was the law in 2000, but the requirement was allowed to lapse in 2006. Accurate data will lead to the development and dissemination of best policing practices.

That could save lives.

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